The Dark Side of "Good Enough Never Is"

7 Facts About the Dark Side
Great Leadership Lessons, NOTE 18

I will say it again, I love the mindset of "Good Enough Never Is." That is my own way of thinking. It is who I am by personality and experience as well. It is how I live in most (but not all) parts of my life. It is my approach to writing, teaching, preaching, mentoring, leading, as well as the hobbies I enjoy. I approach many (but not all) relationships this way. For the relationships that are very important to me - yup, good enough never is. 

I think I have turned out some quality products, services, trainings, seminars, etc. because I put a lot of hard work and dedication to improve those things. I tend to be a pretty tough critic on myself. I give myself plenty of "low grades" for performances and results. I am frustrated when I fall short, especially if it is because I didn't put in the necessary time to do better. 

By the way, none of that is the Dark Side I am going to talk about. I say all of that to set the stage for this.
Because this is who I am... 
Because I have reflected on this for many years...
Because I have seen the dark side and had to work on it...
I think I am positioned to talk about the dark side of "Good Enough Never Is" and to offer some suggestions for dealing with the dark side. These are not listed in any order of importance.


ONE:  Workaholism.
Yup, that's a problem. When good enough never is, then you need more time (and more and more of it) to make things better. It can be a never ending "struggle to find time" to make improvements. 

TWO:  Work-idolatry.
By this I mean that the work (or whatever it is that you believe is not good enough) becomes a demanding "thing." It requires you to give more time, more energy, more investment...more...more...more. It can dominate your life. It controls you, you don't control it. It is the master, you are the servant. Your image about yourself is excessively and negatively tied up with making that thing better.

THREE:  Loss of Margins.
An obvious corollary to the first two. Your time is limited. It has to come from somewhere. You steal it from other areas of life that need it. You fill in the white spaces of your schedule so you can give more time to making the "not good enough" better. All those other things suffer as they are deprived of time. Healthy, relationships, you name it. Everything suffers.

FOUR:  Comparative and Competitive.
On the positive side, the "not good enough" should never be in comparison with others. It should always be about yourself. About what you can do. About your potential. About your capacity. About your results. But unfortunately, it is not. It drifts over to others and it pulls in a sense of comparison and competition. You start to wonder - is it good enough in comparison with ________ (fill in the name)? As soon as that starts, competitiveness is almost immediate. 

FIVE:  Critical of Others.
It is also hard to keep the "not good enough" restricted to your own projects and endeavors. It easily bleeds over to critical evaluations of others. The "good enough never is" gets applied to what they are doing and what results they are gaining. What they are doing is "not good enough." Now, if you are thinking that - what are you going to do? Forget about it? Ignore it? Stuff it? Verbalize it? Air it? Talk to others about it? Let it go? You are going to have to do something that is healthy about it.

Note - for leaders who are responsible for teams, for supervising others, etc. it is very appropriate to expect the "good enough never is" mindset to be adopted by the entire team. For teams and organizations to become great, large number of people need to have the same mindset. It will actually be a messy work environment if some on the team have the mindset and others are not so concerned about making things better.

SIX:  Pride.
This works in two ways. First, pride that you can make things better. Second, pride when you do. Pride is always lurking when it comes to high energy devoted to hard work and desired results. That does not mean either hard work and great results are bad. It just means that pride can make things "junky." When pride is involved, that primes the first two issues of workaholism and work-idolatry. Your pride drives you to more and more work.

SEVEN:  Loss of Gratitude and Joy.
When "good enough never is" some times you neglect to value "how good it was" and to be grateful for how good it was. Even recently, I had this experience. I had a really good experience with a training event. it was really good. But going through it, I found myself thinking, "I can make this better. This doesn't really fit here. This theme should be developed in a different direction." I lost my focus on just how good the training was and the results it was getting, and how it was appreciated by the participants. 

They are SEVEN problems I have experienced with "good enough never is." It is not that I use to experience these problems and no longer do. No, I still experience them. I think they go with the territory. Therefore, leaders need to have mechanisms of self-awareness and resistance in place. Leaders need to attend to these dark side dynamics proactively.

For example:

  • Work to build and keep good rhythms and regula.
  • Fight to keep margins in your schedule. 
  • Monitor how critical you are of others and what you say to them.
  • Find ways to have high standards and still have some flexibility.
  • Always celebrate what you do and what has been accomplished.
  • Practice constant prayerfulness and thankfulness to God for what has been done.

You will find other ways that are helpful. I don't think you can ever get away from the importance of having the mindset, "Good Enough Never Is." But nor can you get away from the need to resist the dark underside to that mindset.

Brian K. Rice
Leadership ConneXtions International